England’s Paul Casey chases a third consecutive Valspar Championship victory beginning Thursday, nevertheless it has been two years since he teed off in the US PGA Tour occasion.
Casey captured the 2018 and 2019 titles on the par-71 Copperhead course at Innisbrook resort in Palm Harbor, Florida.
But final yr, the match turned the primary to be completely worn out by the Covid-19 pandemic, having executed all of the preparation for the occasion solely to have it canceled.
“It does feel like forever,” Casey mentioned Wednesday. “It feels like an extraordinary amount of time. Last year was surreal. I really was disappointed obviously not to be here.
“I’m excited to be lastly again and I’m certain all people else is, too.”
Casey edged Tiger Woods and Patrick Reed by a stroke for the 2018 crown then defended the title in 2019, beating South Africa’s Louis Oosthuizen and American Jason Kokrak by a stroke for his third US PGA win.
“I’ve received again to again, I’m searching for a third and I really feel like my sport is sweet,” Casey said.
“I’m going for a three-peat. I’ve by no means had a three-peat as a skilled, and I really feel just like the strain isn’t on me.
“We’ve got Justin Thomas and guys like that playing this week, and the focus is going to be on them, so I feel like I’m kind of in a sweet spot and raring to go.”
Thomas, the 2017 PGA Championship winner, tees off the primary two days with top-ranked Dustin Johnson and Chile’s Joaquin Niemann.
Casey, 43, performs the primary two rounds alongside Kokrak and 2019 US Open winner Gary Woodland.
World quantity 20 Casey captured his fifteenth profession European Tour title in January at Dubai and managed his finest main end with a share of second at final August’s PGA Championship.
Casey was fifth at Pebble Beach in February and fifth at The Players Championship final month
“I feel very happy with the game,” Casey mentioned. “There’s nothing I’m fearful about. We’re attempting to peak each single week.
“I’ve received a lot of nice golf left forward of me, nice championships I need to attempt to win, so I really feel good. I’m nonetheless extremely motivated, nonetheless working as onerous as I used to be at the start of the yr.”
– ‘It’s elite company’ –
Only eight times in the past 40 years has a player won the same event three times in a row and Woods, out with severe leg injuries after an auto crash, did it six of those times.
The only others were Australian Stuart Appleby from 2004-06 at the Tournament of Champions and Steve Stricker, the most recent to achieve the feat, from 2009-2011 at the John Deere Classic.
“It would simply be extraordinarily cool, flat out, I believe much more so with the one yr form of hiatus,” Casey said. “I’ve executed it however in newbie golf. It’s elite firm.
“There are numerous things that I still want to win and wish I had won, so just to add something to the fabric of everything would be very, very cool.”
Copperhead produced the worst greens in regulation share of any US PGA occasion in 2019 at 54.1% and it is Casey’s expertise with the irons on his approaches that has helped make him formidable on the structure.
“There’s a premium here on medium to long irons into greens,” Casey mentioned. “The second shots into a lot of those par-4s are requiring 175 to 200 plus shots in, and I’ve always been very, very good in that area.
“Lots of spin management, the trajectory of these photographs that I hit. That’s the place the premium is and that is what I do nicely.”
Past Masters champion Tyrrell Hatton of England, Sepp Straka, Will Gordon and Brice Garnett had been pressured out of the sector after testing optimistic for Covid-19.